What is a fully paperless office? 

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We’ve all heard the phrase ‘Go paperless’, but aside from companies green-washing their marketing statements to get their customers to opt for digital receipts instead of printed ones, what does it actually entail?

Well, as you’d expect, paperless means without paper. But don’t raise that sceptical eyebrow, it’s actually got far more hard business advantages than you’d think. Aside from the 84kg of CO2 paper produces per person, per year, paper amounts to one of the biggest unnecessary cost for UK businesses. So why are we all spending so much on this outdated resource?

Why are so many UK businesses transitioning?

With at least £15bn per year spent on office waste, (70% of which is recyclable), modern businesses are starting to smell the coffee. Sure digital processes aren’t too cheap either, but with their multiple uses, they pretty much pay for themselves in the long run. 

Plus, ‘traditional’ means something wholly different today than it did even 10 years ago. In its place ‘innovation’ now hoists the coveted business flag. Traditional equal trustworthy, reliable, but innovation brings a whole new ‘experimental, ‘cutting-edge, futuristic approach to business. 

For many new businesses and consumers, the latter is far more compelling. So, tech is their weapon of choice. But according to a recent study, there’s still 40% of people who consider themselves ‘paper people’.

What are the actual benefits?

Money

The big one. If you’re a business owner or some level of manager in any company, you’re thinking about cost. But, unless you are the CEO, you’ve probably no idea how much disposing office waste costs. It’s likely about £384 a year if you’re a small business, but if you’re bigger, that price can skyrocket. 

In a recent article, it’s revealed that disposing waste via landfill is a lot more expensive than actually recycling it. What with all the extra ‘gate fees’ and added charges including labour and bin hire. 

Switching to paperless, or simply cutting down the amount of paper used and properly recycling it, you could be saving around 14k per year. 

Time & convenience 

Where do I even begin, time wasted printing, filing, printing, photocopying, laminating, signing, stapling, posting. I could go on. 

But, honestly, if you added up all the time spent dealing with paper, it would surely amount to hours if not weeks. You’re also inconveniencing yourself by leaving your desk to carry out most of these activities. 

The biggest and most regular being the journey to the printer. “The average UK office worker prints out 6,000 sides of A4 each year; that’s a whopping 500 sheets – or one ream each – per month”

Space

I’ll bet you don’t look twice at the huge metal cabinets used to store thousands of sheets of paper. But they actually take up valuable real estate in your office. 

According to Reckon’s study, the space taken by a standard-sized filing cabinet is around £360 per year! Which could buy you a standard laptop, capable of filling hundreds of thousands of documents. 

So where do I start? 

Start with your biggest paper usage areas. You can tackle department by department if you’re a large company, or just evaluate your general processes if you’re an SME. Some great starter areas are…

  • Stop printing emails

Email is inherently digital, so it poses the question, ‘why print an email’ but often for big sales deals, an email could seal the deal. But if you really need to keep and find important emails, fast, paper is not the way to do that. 

With Gmail (and other email providers too) you can create multiple ‘bins’ and labels for different mail. By separating the important emails from the junk you’re effectively creating a digital filing cabinet. 

You’re also able to download those super important emails to keep for your own records and attach to customer files etc. 

  • Printing presentations – Wasteful meetings

We’ve all been to those meetings where everyone walks out holding reams of paper, nearly all of them filled with pointless graphs. You’re then instructed to review said pointless graphs and create a report based on them. So more paper. 

Meetings can be one of the biggest wastes of paper a company has, but with the aid of a simple projector or display TV, you can instantly eliminate the need for printed graphs. 

The costs of running and maintaining a printer, which averages at around £148 per employee for a medium-sized business.” 

You can also make use of collaborative tools like Google Docs or Trello so that the whole team can add their review and thoughts in one place, making things incredibly easy for management to track. Implementing the right data security measures, you won’t miss a beat.

  • Properly recycling

Scotland’s government has set its recycling target of 70% by 2025. This is now a far bigger issue than it was a few years ago. So every business should be doing their bit to recycle correctly. 

Almost all paper is recyclable, but to find out what’s recyclable in your area check here. The common test is the scrunch test. If you scrunch the paper into a ball and it doesn’t immediately spring back, you can recycle it. So remove all plastic wrapping and make sure it’s clean. 

Multiple different recycling bins in your office in key areas will help keep your recycling separate. But, make sure you properly label and let staff know about your recycling scheme.

If you’re going to use paper, make sure the disposal is as thorough as possible.

  • Send electronically, not via the postal service

Documents and contracts that require signatures are another big paper waste for many. You print the contract, you post the contract, they sign the contract, they post the contract, you file the contract. It’s a long process if it’s done via the postal service and could take weeks. 

With new software for sending, signing and filing documents you don’t have to print or scan another contract. Using Signable or another electronic signature provider you can send contracts and have them back signed, within the hour. You’re also free to store as many documents as you like in their cloud-based library. 

If you prefer to store your documents in one central location, Google Drive or DropBox are great alternatives. You’re able to create multiple team folders and break them down into more categories than you’d be able to with traditional filing. 

So, even if you’re not cutting all the paper tomorrow, there’s some great steps you should be taking as a modern business in 2020.